The Boston Bruins’ Merlot Line has been a sparkplug for the team for the better part of the last four seasons. The B’s struggled to create the perfect fourth line for a few years with guys like Stephane Yelle, Steve Begin, and Glen Metropolit at center, before making a trade with the Panthers for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell in 2010.
Obviously Horton was the big piece in that deal, but Campbell was more than just a simple throw in. He immediately brought stability to the line that turned into the best fourth line in the game. It could actually be argued that the rest of the NHL followed suit with their fourth lines after watching the B’s roll all four lines en route to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years against Vancouver.
I am not being so overly dramatic as to say they changed the game, but teams definitely took notice.
Shawn Thornton provided the brawn and energy for that line, Campbell was an all-around defensive guy with the occasional offensive flair, and Daniel Paille was a speedster with the ability to keep opposing defensemen honest. They just had unreal chemistry that you can’t teach.
So what happened to them?
Well for starters, the NHL is starting to trend away from the enforcer type guys like Shawn Thornton. The Bruins cut ties with the 37 year old winger last season and he signed with the Florida Panthers in the offseason. His character and leadership will clearly be missed, but his play on the ice was definitely beginning to show signs of wear.
I understand that it may be difficult for Paille and Campbell to have to adjust to him moving on, but I don’t believe for a second that his departure is affecting them as much as it seems. They also have a new linemate in Simon Gagne who is coming off of a full season of no NHL action.